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The name of the new courthouse in Kalamazoo honors the county's first Black judge

The Kalamazoo Justice Center stands at 330 Eleanor street on a bright, sunny day.
Leona Larson
The Justice Center will receive permanent signs displaying its new name at a ceremony to be held in the spring.

The Charles A. Pratt Justice Center officially opened in early December.

Kalamazoo opened a new justice center on December 11, 2023, naming the building after the first Black judge in Kalamazoo.

Charles Pratt was born in Kalamazoo in 1909 and raised in the city. He graduated from Howard University Law School in Washington, DC in 1928. Pratt then returned to Kalamazoo, where he went on to become the county's first Black judge.

Some described Pratt as a lawyer for other Black citizens in Kalamazoo, but he said he was a lawyer for all people. Pratt’s daughter, Helen Pratt Mickens of Lansing said his character showed through in all areas of his life.

“His kindness and empathy and thinking of other people was always on display,” Mickens said.

Pratt died in 1989.

A ceremony celebrating the new justice center will be held in the spring, when new signs will replace temporary ones.